So I'm watching Episode Two of Master of None titled "Parents." Aziz Ansari's character Dev is bitching with his friend Brian (played by Alan Yang) about how demanding and undemonstrative his immigrant parents are.
He says that when he was at a white girlfriend's house for dinner, he got hugged by her mother more times in one evening than in his entire life by his parents. I cracked up because my brother and I have talked about how we couldn't remember our Holocaust survivor mother hugging us, or hugging us often.
Then Dev and Brian went into an extended riff about how nothing they did was good enough for their parents. The catalyst? Dev got a callback for a movie role, and his father said, "Oh, okay. Can you fix my iPad?" Both guys agreed that if they went to the Moon, "Why didn't you go to Pluto?" or something like that would be the complaint.
This kind of thinking, whether spoken or not, was what I grew up with -- it was the air I breathed. Being good at school wasn't enough, my brother and I had to be best. And even that wasn't enough, because we had to always be the best, which of course was never going to happen, so we were always going to be disappointing. We didn't just have to make up for everything that had gone wrong in our parents' lives in the Holocaust, we had the weight of Jewish history on our shoulders.
Elsewhere in the episode, Dev and Brian complained about how little they knew of their parents' lives before coming to America and tried to figure out what they could do about it.
Watching that scene, watching the show, I felt Yang and Azari weren't just speaking for South Indian-Americans and Asian-Americans, but for all children of immigrants, all of us whose parents have been reluctant to talk about their past and poured everything into trying to launch their children into an American future.
The problems are frustrating, but Ansari knows that one of the best ways to deal with them is to realize their potential for comedy.
Lev Raphael has published more than two dozen books of fiction and non-fiction which you can find on Amazon.